Friday, June 27, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction Review

You Know, We Have A Saying On My Planet As Well....I Don't Care


There are movies that are just powerful in ways we can't explain. The very nature of film criticism is to boil down the beauty of movies to the format of words, but sometimes, the images put on the silver screen just cannot be given justice through the medium of writing. That being said, I shall try my hardest to convey how much of a painful endurance test Transformers: Age of Extinction truly is.

This new entry in the 7 year old franchise takes after the axiom "The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same". We've got a new cast, new designs for the robots, new villains, yet the whole thing still suffers from the flaws of the two sequels. Now, I absolutely loved the first Transformers movie. It has to be one of the best blockbusters from recent times, its deft ability to command a sense of majesty and grandeur from its robotic characters lifting it to new heights of quality. The two sequels never managed to recapture any sort of majesty, settling for incoherent action and dog humping. I hoped and prayed that Michael Bay could pull this off, but not only has he not pulled it off, he's reached a new level of awful. I'm not sure how anyone thought this film was fit to be released to the human race, much less as the so-called "Biggest movie of the summer"

Honest to God, why do we need humans in these movies? Why? They're not compelling or anything, and all they do is distract from the robot action. The opening lacks any sort of robot fun, instead giving us, in addition to the real reason why dinosaurs went extinct, four different openings, introducing us to our massive new cast of pitifully written characters. I would have no problem with that procedure of introducing a bunch of new people, except none of the characters we meet are remarkable on any level. Among the new additions are Kelsey Grammar playing a big o'l Government meanie, and Wahlberg playing a Dad who just wants to help his daughter. Oh God, his daughter. Tessa (Nicola Peltz) does pretty much nothing in this movie except be a damsel-in-distress for her Dad and her equally underdeveloped boyfriend (played by Jack Reynor). Her acting range in many of the films big "emotional" moments make Hayden Christensen look like Daniel Day-Lewis, to the point where her failure to act becomes funnier than any of the films funny moments.

Those funny moments, for a while anyway, come through T.J. Miller as Cade's assitant. I like Miller a lot actually, which makes it painful to say he's grating in his role here. Every few seconds it seems, he has to deliver some "gem" of a one-liner that didn't even raise a smile from me. For those hoping to see some fun robot action here, well, go see Pacific Rim, because Michael Bay doesn't seem to know how to do fun in any of these sequels. You see, there's this moment where Optimus Prime is finally fixed up enough to fight the villainous Lockdown, whose killed many of Primes Autobot brethren. Are we focus on this heroes first fight in ages, his attempt to avenge his fallen comrades? Of course not! Instead, we're stuck watching this cumbersome chase sequence that keeps cutting back to Wahlbergs indigence at meeting his daughters boyfriend for the first time, despite the government agents shooting at them. Add in T.J. Millers forced humor into the sequence, and this becomes a prime example of how not to film an action scene. Don't worry though; this is only the first action scene in this 165 minute tragedy.

Soon, we get to meet our remaining Autobots, only one of which we've seen before (Bumblebee, who has nothing to do here now that he can't be Sams guardian) I didn't even think they had names in the movie, since while watching it I pretty much boiled them down to "The Samurai" or "The Beard" or "The One That Kinda Sounds Like Bender". They soon go after Joshua (Stanley Tucci), a dude making his own Transformers which we all know is just gonna end up dandy. His main new Transformer is one called Galvatron (GET IT FANBOYS????), who we later learn is just Megatrons brain inside a new robot body. Super. Can we get a new effective villain in these movies? Or is that too much to ask since we can't even seem to get characters at all in these sequels? While the Autobots eventually fight Galvatron, who of course separates himself from his programming to do his own bidding, the movies ultimate problem bubbles to the surface; ambition.

This is a movie that has no restraint, there's absolutely nothing they aren't tossing into this thing. Man-made robots? Sure! Bounty hunters? Of course! Dinobots? Throw 'em in! That lack of restraint that rules Ehren Krugers awful script is only getting started at that aforementioned sequence, in which Galvatron just stops being a problem whenever Lockdown pops up. That nefarious foe kidnaps Optimus and Tessa (gotta give Wahlberg something to do!) and takes them up into his ship, where the film reaches a level of bizzareness that even Howard the Duck would find perplexing. Upon this ship are what appear to be Mars Rovers with Muppet eyeballs, robot wolves with furry backs and some sort of green alien creature whose long tongue becomes the focal point of way too much screentime. I'd admire it's boldness in putting such unconventional stuff into it's story, except none of it serves any sort of purpose to the plot. It's just more extraneous garbage that's solely designed to... I don't even know really. It's not entertaining, it's not for the plot, it just exists because this movie couldn't bear to leave anything on the cutting room floor.Thank God everyone soon leaves that ship, especially considering the flickering lights that environment were starting to give me a headache.

The sprawling cast within this "plot" is so poorly handled it's just no even worth some snarky remark. Right after Wahlberg and the Autobots exit Lockdowns ship, Joshua enters back into the proceedings, despite his blandness and lack of screentime leaving me to forget about him entirely. Seriously, Stanley Tucci is an awesome actor who has shown he can ham it up or bring the pathos in other big budget movies. Why he doesn't get to do anything really remarkable here is beyond me (though, credit where credit is due, he actually gets the films only two humorous moments). Anywho, he decides to move everything to China, so this trainwreck can actually make money there, er, I mean, uh, because there's a factory there. Yeah, that'll do, good job screenwriters.

There's a ton of humans in here, but the few amount of robots mean they're gonna develop the few Autobots left and make them meaningful right? Not a chance. Like I mentioned earlier, I didn't even remember their names and they don't make any sort of impact by the time the big action packed sequence in China starts. Her'es where the movie goes from poor to a flat-out abomination in the world of film. The Autobots start out fighting Galvatron, and his army of 50 robots. Everyone in this army looks exactly the same as their leader, so the whole damn thing turns into a loud sprawling mess. Then, Optimus Prime decides to just unleash four Dinobots (who don't talk, look creepy and worst of all, don't get cool action moments) on the city, where they'll destroy Galvatrons army. But comes Lockdown! His ships back and it's sucking up all metal and at this point I have no idea what's going on. It's just mayhem for the sake of mayhem, with no interesting characters to make it seem interesting. The worst offender of incoherence comes when Bumblebee rides a two-headed pterodactyl, a scene that should have been the height of silly fun instead becomes incomprehensible because the camera can't....stop....shaking. ENOUGH WITH THE SHAKY-CAM!!!! 

By the time Optimus Prime faces off against Lockdown, Kelsey Grammar just shows up again because that feels totally necessary. The humans act like they actually matter within this "story" and Optimus kills Lockdown. I guess the epic army that was tearing up the city is no longer a problem, since they've disappeared. Galvatron then menacingly speaks to himself, warning Optimus that he'll be back, because the one thing I need after this horrifying mess is a sequel (what I really did need was an ibuprofen) Then the Dinobots are told to go free, Mark Wahlberg hugs the man who almost destroyed humanity with his man made robots, and the big touchy-feely moment of the ending is when Michael Bay rips off his fantastic earlier work Armageddon and has the man-child father bless his daughters choice of boyfriend. I know hundreds of movies have used that trope, but not only was it used effectively in Armageddon, Michael Bay also directed that film, meaning he's pretty much just plagiarizing his earlier works to try to find something, anything, to use for terrible films like this.

The film concludes with Optimus threatening each audience member with another adventure, in which he'll just rip off Prometheus and search for his creators. And thus ends this epic film, one that I think kills any hope Michael Bay will ever deliver another great Transformers movie, along with the hope that these wonderful characters can be given another good live-action feature. But I think even worse than the ramifications it has for this particular franchise is the sweeping sense of ego that permeates the movie. Directors with egos are nothing new, but the likes of James Cameron earn their egos because, hey, you just made two of the biggest movies of all-time. Michael Bay has now made one of the worst films I've ever seen, a movie that is more dangerous than any nuclear weapon, dumber than anything Zack Snyder crafted as a director (never thought I'd say that!) and somehow manages to make a nearly three hour movie out of a premise so freaking stupid, kids with toys from the movie could create something better in two minutes.

You know what the worst part about all of this is? This movies devotion to taking things to their greatest extreme would be admired, if they applied to the characters, action or plot. Instead, they make sure the product placement is so prominent, one could be forgiven walking into the movie late and thinking they were still airing the pre-film commercials. Racial stereotypes are presented at their most stereotypical, this tune Imagine Dragons created for the film is played endlessly and like I said before, Lockdowns ship is an overabundance of sci-fi concepts that just confound more than amaze. Transformers: Age of Extinction is just nothing but a collision of confusion and arrogance that somehow is being called a film.

"My face is my warrant."

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